1 September, Cabo de Gata

Thus starts the new term, if I may borrow an educational expression. I was very pleased indeed to meet Dave at the Bird Fair and am happy to report that he looked very well indeed, a slim-line version of the rather chubby chap in the photo of his e-mails. You really will have to renew the photo, Dave, and reveal the new, lean and mean self!

I admit too that I have a few photos to download from my trip, which was basically either wet or cold or both on the Yorkshire coast, something I may get round to in this next day or so as in between painting the illustrations for the new, fortunately brief, project - a waterproof book (yes, honest!) to take to sea to help identify pelagic species , I have alsomanaged to pull muscles in the outer underside of my left foot, very painful and I was sober too! With two thirds done, the rest should be finished by the middle of the month if all goes well - it's a damned big if, but there you are. The photo alongside is of the probable cover design. However, enough of that, on to Dave and Gilly's account of the Arboleas Bird Group visit to Cabo de Gata.

Cabo de Gata. Wednesday 1st September 2010

Having been to the Birdfair for the first time and going to the talk regarding the status of the Slender-billed Curlew, I was determined that our group should do our bit in the search for this possibly extinct bird as Cabo de Gata would be an ideal stopping off point for a bird migrating from Siberia to Morocco. So, armed with the necessary identification documents, (visit www.slenderbilledcurlew.net) Gilly and I, together with Dave and Myrtle Green, headed south to the reserve. After a reviving cuppa in Pujaire we arrived at the first hide. The water levels were ideal for waders so we were soon logging Curlew Sandpiper, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Spotted and the Common Redshank. Records of Black-tailed Godwits had also been requested. Counted 157 for the day. I spotted a distant Eurasian Curlew resting by the waters edge. I soon found a second further towards the second hide, so that is where we headed. They were still there and later were joined by two more by the water. Within minutes all four took off and made the short flight to the grassy savanna to search for insects.

Also seen there, which did somewhat surprise me, was a juvenile Woodchat Shrike, one of three for the day. Still quite a few Barn Swallows and Red-rumps but no Martins seen. Had one Pallid Swift and a dozen or so Commons.
Little Terns were still around as were a pair of Gull-billed Tern, which caused slight confusion as they were eclipsing to their winter plumage.

At the public hide a Sanderling in part breeding plumage was added to the list, but nothing further of particular interest, so Dave & Myrtle headed to Almeria for shopping whilst Gilly and I ventured round the rear of the reserve. There was a large flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls with a few Audouin's amongst them. We only added a Dunlin to the list before calling it a day. 36 species for the day but more importantly pleased we're doing our bit as regards the Slender-billed Curlew.
Dave & Gilly

I would add that one should beware juvenile Whimbrel and Curlews, where the bill is shorter and straighter. Ideally, a whole series of photographs (either digi or with a damned great lens of some sort) would be a huge help.

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